What Is Eye Discharge?

Generally, when we wake up from our sleep, we experience a sticky, semi-solid, mucoid substance at the corner of our eyes. That substance is known as eye discharge. The consistency of the eye discharge may vary from watery or mucoid or dry powder depending on the rate of evaporation of the liquid.

Eye discharge contains mucus, oil, skin cells, and certain other debris that accumulates at the corner of our eyes when we sleep. This eye discharge is also known as rheum or sleep. The eye discharge plays an important role in removing the waste, dirt, and harmful debris from the front surface of our eyes and the tear film. The conjunctive produces the watery mucoid substance called mucin and the meibomian glands secret an oily substance. The mucin helps to wash away the dirt and the oily substance helps in lubrication. Apart from protecting the eye discharge also keeps our eyes hydrated.

What is the phenomenon of eye discharge accumulation?

Our average blinking frequency is 15-20 times per minute. When we blink the eye discharge containing mucus and dirt gets washed off continuously. It is a protective mechanism of the eye. But when we sleep, we are not blinking, so the mucoid or watery eye discharge accumulates at the corner of our eyes. Some amount of eye discharge or rheum is normal when we wake up. But if you are having excessive thick, opaque, green, or yellowish, purulent eye discharge accompanied by redness, swelling, eye pain, or sensitivity to light, it may indicate an eye infection.

Eye Problems Related To Eye Discharge

Abnormal eye discharge is mainly due to infections or allergies. External injury to the eye can also cause excessive eye discharge. The following are the causes of allergic eye discharge-

Pink Eye or Conjunctivitis


Conjunctivitis is a condition in which a thin membrane of our eye called conjunctiva gets inflamed. The eye appears pink when the blood vessels get swollen due to inflammation. Conjunctiva is a thin membrane that forms the inner lining of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infestation. Allergic reactions due to air pollutants, harmful smoke, pollen, or chlorinated water of the swimming pool can lead to conjunctivitis. Infectious conjunctivitis is contagious.

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal manifestations. Poor hygiene, using contaminated eye makeup or contact lenses, touching eyes with contaminated hands, etc. can lead to bacterial conjunctivitis.
  • Viral conjunctivitis is mainly caused by contagious viruses responsible for the common cold. Viral conjunctivitis mostly occurs when our eyes are exposed to viral droplets due to coughing or sneezing of an infected person.
  • Ophthalmia neonatorum is a severe bacterial conjunctivitis occurring in newborns. This severe form of bacterial conjunctivitis occurs when the infant gets exposed to chlamydia or gonorrhoea during the passage through the birth canal. Prophylactic measures like the application of antibiotic ointment are practiced to avoid this infection.



It is a form of eye inflammation involving the eyelids. The eyelids get inflamed due to bacterial infestation, dandruff of the scalp, or abnormal functioning of the oil-producing glands of the eye. Blepharitis can be of the following types-

  • Anterior blepharitis involves the outer front edge of the eyelid. It is mostly caused due to bacteria of staphylococcal origin known as (staphylococcal blepharitis) and due to scalp dandruff known as seborrheic blepharitis.
  • Posterior blepharitis involves the inner lining of the eyelid. It is mostly caused due to blockage of the glands that are responsible for oil production. This condition is known as meibomian blepharitis.

Corneal Ulcer

corneal ulcer

Corneal ulcer, also known as keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea due to bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. It can be also caused due to eye injury. Symptoms of keratitis include-

  • Severe Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Photophobia
  • Discomfort
  • Excessive eye discharge
  • Tearing due to eye irritation

Causes of Keratitis-

Bacterial Keratitis is caused due to infestation with Staphylococcus aureus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa. It is mostly observed in individuals with long periods of wearing contact lenses, without maintaining proper hygiene.

  • Viral keratitis is caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV). Viral keratitis can be triggered by stress, an inefficient immune system, or excessive exposure to harmful rays of sunlight. The Varicella virus can also cause viral keratitis.
  • Fungal Keratitis can be caused by various fungal species including Fusarium, Aspergillus, or Candida. Fungal keratitis is observed in individuals with improper contact lens care or usage of steroid eye drops.
  • The injury inflicted by corneal ulcer (keratitis) may be due to abrasions, burns, chemical exposure, cuts, scrapes, or scratches. These eye injuries to the cornea can become infected by bacteria causing keratitis.

Blocked Tear Duct (Dacryocystitis)

Blocked Tear Duct (Darcyocystitis)

A painful eye condition caused due to blockage of the tear duct. Blockage can be partial or complete. Our lacrimal glands are responsible for producing tears. Tears wash away dirt and foreign particles that can harm the eye. Tear travels from small holes called puncta in the corner of eyelids through canals on the eyelid called canaliculi then finally draining into the nasolacrimal duct.

Blockage of the path of tear drainage causes fluid accumulation leading to excessive discharge accompanied by pain and swelling. Possible causes of blocked tear ducts include nasal polyps, injury to the related structures, sinusitis, congenital factors, nasal surgery, or cancerous growth.  



Endophthalmitis is a form of eye infection that involves fluids and tissues inside the eyeball. Endophthalmitis is an emergency condition and requires immediate medical attention. This condition can be due to complications after cataract surgery.

Symptoms of Endophthalmitis include-

  • Purulent eye discharge
  • Loss of vision- completed or partial
  • Excessive eye pain
  • Photophobic
  • Redness and sore eyes



The uvea is a tissue layer that lies beneath the sclera (white part of the eye). Uveitis involves inflammation of the uvea. Uveitis can be due to eye injuries, bacterial, fungal, or viral infection, or a compromised immune system. Certain symptoms of uveitis include-

  • Blurred vision
  • Photophobia
  • Redness or swelling of eyes
  • Purulent eye discharge

Eye Stye

eye stye

Eye Stye is a glandular infection involving the meibomian gland located at the base of the eyelid. The gland becomes infected due to a microbial manifestation in the eyelash follicle. Medically known as hordeolum the symptoms include-

  • Swollen Eyelids
  • Purulent eye discharge
  • Soaring of the eye and tenderness
  • Redness
  • Crusting on the eyelids
  • Discomfort while blinking

Treatment of Eye Discharge

Treatment of eye discharge depends upon the underlying cause of it. Bacterial infections generally require treatment with antibiotic eye ointment and eye drops. Certain eye conditions with eye discharge may not require any treatment and can resolve with home remedies. It is best to see an ophthalmologist if you are experiencing abnormal eye discharge.

Some common treatments of Eye Discharge include-

  • Symptom relieving with a cold compress or warm compress
  • Steroid eye drops to reduce inflammation
  • Regular eye drops to keep them hydrated
  • Antibiotics and antifungals for microbial infestations

How to prevent abnormal eye discharge?

Abnormal eye discharge is mainly due to infectious origin or injury. Maintaining good hygiene is of utmost importance for preventing any eye disorder. Some basic hygiene steps include-

  • Wash your hands before touching your eyes.
  • For dry eyes use eye drop
  • Change your contact lens solution every time after usage
  • Do not sleep or take a bath while wearing your contact lens
  • Wash your eyes and clean your eyes and remove any accumulated eye discharge with a moist cloth
  • Go for regular eye checkups
  • Do not self-prescribe any medicinal eye drops.


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